WAPO Cites “Anecdotal Evidence” That Illegal Aliens Are Canceling Food Stamps To Avoid Deportation
Luisa Fortin sometimes sits up at night, wondering what her clients are eating. She is the SNAP Outreach Coordinator for the Chattanooga Food Bank — but lately she has done less outreaching.
Her families, working immigrants in northwest Georgia, are spooked by the political climate, Fortin said. Increasingly, she’s being asked to explain how food stamps may impact immigration status, if not to outright cancel family food benefits.
Since mid-January, five of Fortin’s families have withdrawn from the SNAP program. One, the single mother of three citizen daughters, had fled to Georgia to escape an abusive husband. Another, two green-card holders with four young children, were thinking of taking on third jobs to compensate for the lost benefits. These families represent a small fraction of Fortin’s caseload — she estimates she has signed 200 immigrant families up for SNAP over the past six months — but based on the calls she gets from other clients, she fears more cancellations are imminent.
“I get calls from concerned parents all the time: ‘should I take my kids out of the program?’” Fortin said. “They’re risking hunger out of fear … and my heart just breaks for them.”
Chattanooga is not an outlier here, either.
In the two months since President Trump’s inauguration, food banks and hunger advocates around the country have noted a decline in the number of eligible immigrants applying for SNAP — and an uptick in immigrants seeking to withdraw from the program.
Their fear, advocates say, is that participation could draw the eye of Immigration and Customs Enforcement or hurt their chances of attaining citizenship. Without federal nutrition benefits, many are resorting to food pantries and soup kitchens to feed themselves and their children.
The evidence is still anecdotal — and The Washington Post was unable to speak directly with immigrants who chose to cancel their SNAP benefits.
“This is a response to the climate of fear and terror that immigrant families are living in because of the Trump administration,” said Jackie Vimo, a policy analyst at the National Immigration Law Center. “These are unfounded fears. But they’re based in this environment, and they’re very widespread.”
According to the Department of Agriculture, 1.5 million noncitizens received food stamps in the 2015 fiscal year, as did 3.9 million citizen children living with noncitizen adults. The rules for receiving public assistance are strict, and immigrants tend to utilize food benefits at a much lower rate than their native-born neighbors. Studies have also shown that immigrant households tend to suffer more hunger.